“Control what you can control” (Shannin Hislop). He wasn’t the first to say it, and none of you have ever heard of him, but when I heard those words come out of his mouth in 2010 it changed my life. Before that, my passion for baseball and my desire to be the best clouded my ability to do so. I was in my own way, trying to reinvent the wheel to get the edge, so angry at everything. Then I heard those words, like a switch turning on a light, those words altered my reality on how to have success in the game and how to be a better man.
I was 17, I was somewhat talented, but I thought I knew it all, I was a bad teammate. After those words, my perception changed, I began to understand that success came from helping the team win, not from individual accolades. Soon after, I began pitching and those words never rang truer. I could not control a player making an error, or the umpire not calling the obvious strike, I could only control the next pitch, the next hitter. Those were elements I thought I could control, and it made me a better player. That was the way I developed a healthier drive, and a passion geared towards team success and not my own. I came second to the team. I still had moments of selfishness to be sure, but we are all human.
It turned out I had a bit of a knack for pitching, and it let me play baseball at the highest level I would reach, where I would learn the true meaning of professionalism and mental toughness. I maintain to this day that if you want to learn how to do something right, and do it well, watch someone truly good go to work, watch what they do so you know what it takes to be the best. I learnt more in those 7 months on that team, watching the best go at it, than I did for all the years I played earlier. Their work ethic and their mental toughness were second to none. “Control what you can control” to them wasn’t a phrase, it was instilled into their very nature, they didn’t let the distractions and roadblocks stop them, they just kept on.
Eventually, I had to hang the cleats up and began coaching, and I took it upon myself, to impart that wisdom I learned from those I played with and learned from, who were the very best. Being a coach is as much about teaching skills as it is teaching emotion, how to rise and how to stay level, when to be adversarial and when to be sympathetic. I try to impart that wisdom on to my players, to teach them how to control what they can control both mentally and physically. However, the most important skill I have learned as a coach that I believe every coach needs to have, is curiosity. A desire to keep learning creates great coaches and teachers. No one knows it all, and only hubris and arrogance will tell you otherwise. Finally, I believe that baseball should bring joy to all who are involved in it and Ken Griffey Jr, said it better than I ever could: “It’s a game, and that’s how I am going to treat it.” Have fun with it, keep the joy, and control what you can control.
*Coach Charlie Letourneau is the Director of Training and Development of DREAM Team Sports in Mansfield, Texas. His background includes pitching professionally for the MLB Affiliate Sydney Blue Sox and his coaching career has seen him coach at two baseball powerhouses: Northwestern Oklahoma State University and Hill College. DREAM Team offers instructional training to youth athletes in baseball and softball and classes to help players realizes their dreams in the sport. Charlie has a passion for teaching players and for coaching them in a way that helps them development both physically and also mentally.